In a world where it's often difficult to differentiate between new laptops, the Samsung M70 stands proud as the first to use a 19-inch display. Moreover, the screen is completely detachable, and is purportedly the first to support 16.7 million colour 24bit True Colour graphics. It's hard to ignore the fact that the laptop is fairly ordinary elsewhere, thanks to its moderately old components, so we were eager to see whether its innovation in one area was enough to compensate for its inadequacies in others.
The Samsung M70 is one of the largest laptops on the market, and understandably so -- it's the first to use a 19-inch screen. The entire unit is 435mm wide, which is roughly the equivalent of two phonebooks placed side by side. In other words, you'll have trouble fitting it into an ordinary-size laptop bag, and the accompanying leather carry case is conspicuous, to say the least. Ultimately, this isn't the sort of laptop you'll want to use on the train, unless you take special pleasure in making sure your fellow commuters have no room to use their own portable PCs.
To its credit, the M70 is rather stylish. Its silver and black design isn't particularly adventurous, but it exudes the high level of aesthetic elegance we've come to expect from modern Samsung products. The top of the lid is plain silver with a Samsung logo in the middle, and is most striking with the screen open.
Samsung has chosen not to give the M70's keyboard a contrasting colour, so the majority of the laptop is a sea of silver. It's hard not to notice that the sheer girth of the laptop has allowed Samsung to incorporate full size keys and a separate numerical keypad -- a feature that will be appreciated by gamers and anyone with the need to enter a large amount of numerical data.
To the left of the keyboard there are eight shortcut keys. Two are used to adjust the brightness of the screen, and two are for controlling the volume of the four integrated speakers and the bottom-facing (and ultimately laughable) subwoofer. Above these buttons there are separate keys for launching movie playback software, a picture viewer and an audio player. On top of these, there's a key for launching the 'AV Station Now' mode -- a media playback mode that operates outside of Windows XP.
It's impossible to talk about the M70 without mentioning its audacious 19-inch screen. Not only is it absolutely enormous, but it can also be detached from the body of the laptop and used as a standalone monitor for the M70, or indeed any other PC. The screen is connected to the keyboard section via a proprietary video port and held in place by clips on either side. To release the screen, you simply unfasten the clips (which double up as a keyboard stand) and slide it out of the keyboard section and into its 'M-Cradle'. At this point, the display looks no different to an ordinary 19-inch TFT screen. The whole process is fairly simple and can be done in about 20 seconds, with some practice.
Whichever way you use it, the screen is of undisputably high quality. Samsung says it's the first laptop screen to support True Colour -- in other words, it's said to be capable of displaying 16.7 million colours (although there's no way for us to independently verify this). Without going into too much technical detail, the M70's screen is amongst the brightest and best you'll find on any laptop. Whereas many laptops use a 6-bit TFT panel and are capable of a emulating 16.7 million colours, there's far less faking in the M70's colour reproduction, so it's perfect for graphic designers and digital image enthusiasts.
Our only gripe with this aspect of the M70 is the fact that the chassis part of the unit lacks a digital DVI output port, despite the fact that the screen has both analogue D-Sub and DVI inputs -- you have to use the VGA output when the screen's in its stand.
The M70's keyboard proved to be just as usable as its large size would have us believe, but the mouse touchpad is a great disappointment. It seems very small in relation to the enormous screen, and the fact that it has a rather low default touch sensitivity means you'll have to make two or three sweeps of the pad to move the cursor from one side of the screen to the other.
Making the touchpad wider isn't a viable option here, as a wider pad would get in the way of your hands while you type, so you'll probably have to increase the mouse sensitivity, or better still, use an external USB mouse.
While the M70 is progressive in many respects, it uses relatively outdated internal components. It uses the slightly ageing Intel 915GM chipset, its accompanying Intel GMA 950 graphics adaptor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a relatively quick, if undeniably outdated, 2GHz Pentium M CPU. In other words, it's second-generation Centrino technology, which although commendable in its own right, pales in comparison to the newer Centrino Duo technology sported by laptops such as the Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi.
The M70's 100GB hard drive offers a decent amount of storage space, but this is nowhere near enough for any laptop pitching itself as a true replacement for your desktop PC. There's some consolation in the fact that it uses a Teac DV-W28EA dual-layer DVD rewriter that can write up to 8.4GB of data to a single compatible disc, but dual-layer media is more expensive than standard DVD discs, and hasn't yet proved its worth as a cost-effective means of backing up data.
Input/output connectivity on the M70 is something of a mixed bag. It is one of very few laptops to ship with a full-size 6-pin FireWire port, and it has a 5-in-1 memory card reader supporting all major card types, but there are only four USB ports, so you may want to invest in a hub if you have a large number of USB periperals.
The Samsung M70's performance isn't terribly inspiring. The main culprit is its single-core Pentium M CPU, which although clocked at 2GHz, produces performance that pales in comparison to that of smaller, newer laptops such as the 8204WLMi. Its PCMark 2005 score of 2,903 indicates it's perfectly capable of running day-to-day applications without struggling, but it isn't well suited to multitasking, so you may have to restrict yourself to carrying out one or two tasks at a time.
The M70 should be commended for its gaming abilities though. It chalked up a 3DMark 2006 tally of 967, which while unspectacular, equates to decent real-world performance. It achieved 56.9 frames per second when running Doom 3 at a resolution of 1,024x768 pixels, which is only slightly below the magical 60fps marker. It could only manage 38.3fps at 1,280x1,024 pixels, but ultimately the laptop will happily run most modern games at a decent lick, albeit at modest resolutions.
One highly surprising factor of the M70's performance was its very long battery life. It lasted for nearly six hours in our tests, which is extremely impressive for a laptop with moderately old components and such an enormous screen. Despite the laptop's girth, it proves it can be taken on the road, with its only real limitation being its unwieldy form factor.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide